When should personhood be attributed?


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Two weeks
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*Burden of proof*
-PRO: Personhood *should* be attributed at conception
-CON: Personhood *should* be attributed at a time other than conception (e.g birth)
Personhood - "Perceived by law to possess unalienable rights (specifically the right to life)"
Conception - "The exact moment of the union of the homo sapien spermatazoon and ova, such that a zygote is formed"
1. One must comment on this debate if they wish to accept to ensure that all definitions, BoP etc. are stipulated. Failure to adhere will result in immediate forfeiture.
2. Failure to adhere to the debate format is considered poor conduct.
3. Forfeiture of any round without notice is also considered poor conduct.
4. Don't be afraid to negotiate rules, definitions or formatting before accepting the debate (but do not accept until they are stipulated!)
5. No kritiks
Round 1: Opening Arguments
Round 2: Rebuttals
Round 3: Rebuttals/Defence
Round 4: Rebuttals/Defence with summary (no new arguments and or new defence)
(I am more than willing to negotiate the format, if one were to propose a format with only four rounds)
*To note*
-Con must affirm a specific stage of development warranting the attribution of personhood (be it 6 weeks, birth etc.)
Round 1
*Con will be affirming that personhood ought to be ascribed at birth.*

== Aff ==

Thank you for accepting the debate! To begin, I will first highlight the inherent distinction between the Pro and Con position; what their commonalities are and what differentiates them.  I intend to show that both positions innately entail that biological humanity is an indubitable facet of personhood. Moreover, I will demonstrate that any position that entails the attribution of personhood at any other time than conception can be reduced to the same inconsistency conveyed through moral scepticism and value judgements. Furthermore, I will show that attribution of personhood at conception is the most congruous position in terms of general principles in law proceedings.  . 

Distinguishing Pro from Con
Before I can express my opening argument, the common ground between the two positions must be clarified.  Con’s position differs from mine, insofar as he asserts personhood ought to be ascribed after a finite period of time after conception (at birth).  Moreover, it is important to note that the resolution implies the possibility of two outcomes: either personhood is attributed at some time, or it is not attributed at all.  The latter would entail that neither I, nor Con would be able to fulfil our burdens of proof, thus to even have this debate we would have to agree that the former is true.  This is generally considered to be a truism by society as a whole anyway – without personhood being attributed no-one would have fundamental rights which would certainly lead to anarchy. 

This begs the question to what criteria should exist to validly define a person and brings me to the first and most crucial commonality between the two positions; no matter what stage of the developmental timeline is advocated -- be it conception, six weeks, birth, 65 years old etc. – all of them share the indubitable and irrefutable fact that the entity being attributed “personhood” is a “biological human”.   This is true, even at conception, as scientific consensus postulates that biological humanity begins at conception [1].

This might appear fairly obvious, but its relevance is clarified when it is illustrated in predicate form.  At this stage, we would have that all “people” (i.e those with unalienable rights) must be biologically human, by definition.
1.     ∀x(human(x) <=> person(x)).  Viz. “For all x, where x is a human, means that x is a person”.

Here is where the debate begins – I, as Pro, must advocate why this proposition is most prudent.  Con, on the other hand, must advocate that personhood is not only implied by biological humanity, but also by other predicates.  An example of this would be as such:

2.    ∀x( ((human(x) ^ conscious(x)) <=> person(x)).  Viz. “For all x, where x is a person and where x is conscious, means x is a person”

Via first order syntax, the distinction between our positions is clearly depicted.  It can be seen that not only does Con share the predicate of biological humanity, he is also burdened with the justification of multiplicity of predicates, be it consciousness, viability (whatever he chooses).  However, the predicate of biological humanity is true by definition (as personhood must be attributed). However, the same cannot be said about the additional predicates.  As such, Con is burdened with providing the additional justification to why more predicates (criteria) is needed to attribute personhood, but I argue that no matter what justification this is, it cannot be agreed upon and will lead to logical inconsistencies (similar to the problems conveyed in moral scepticism).  I argue that the only position exempt of these inconsistencies is the attribution of personhood at conception.

A1. Moral Scepticism and Value Judgement 
To reject the Pro position, that biological humanity is the sole implication of personhood, would be to state that either biological humanity does not implicate personhood at all, or biological humanity is not enough to implicate personhood.  The former is implausible if we are to value a functioning society – to reject this would entail that I can justly kill whomever I please.  This means we are left with the latter, i.e Con’s position.  The problem begins with the suggestion that a biological human is attributed personhood at a time other than conception.  This is because, there ought to be justification to why that human is now a person, but was not one at conception.  One can only do this by attributing value to something acquired later in development, or by attributing moral value to something acquired later in development.  If no value was gained, there would be no justification for assigning personhood at any other time but conception.  Thus, for the time of conception to have less value than birth would be to assume that either development as a whole, or something acquired throughout development. entails more qualitative and measurable value relative to that of the point of conception.  However, I argue that this position is unescapable from the issues associated with moral and value scepticism.  This is because, there is no agreeable measurement of value (moral or absolute) that can be argued for in this context.

Let’s examine ways of which we could attempt to ascribe moral and absolute value and compare them relative to different points of the developmental timeline.

I)                    Moral Value
Let’s compare a zygote, to a new-born baby.  Whom has greater moral value?  Prima facie one might argue that a bundle of cells has infinitesimal moral value relative to a fully developed baby – the feeble bundle of cells does not possess a heartbeat, consciousness, the ability to self-sustain or many of the other properties a baby has.  Admittedly, I would feel more morally reprehensible if anything detrimental were to happen to the baby than the zygote. However, attributing value in this way leads to a superabundance of inconsistencies and disagreement.  Firstly, whilst many concur with this view, a mother who has finally conceived a child after many years of effort would certainly contend that their unborn, underdeveloped bundle of cells is valuable. What if the unborn child were to be your own child, brother or sister, would they still not be valued – or be seen as less valuable to another fully born baby?  I would contend the mother would certainly value their unborn more than many live members of our community, so who’s view is correct?  Does consciousness, agency and self-sustainability outweigh the value one would place on the unborn, be it that they are a part of one’s family?  What is the absolute value of it?  How does one compare or measure the value of the different properties?  Who is to say that these properties are valuable at all?  To reiterate, let’s examine the two scenarios I just mentioned, labelled A and B:

A:  One values a baby as possessing more moral value because it possesses properties like consciousness, viability etc.
B: Another values a zygote as having more moral value, because that zygote is their own child, brother, sister (whomever they may be)
Who is correct? Do properties like consciousness entail more value than the intrinsic value a family member places on another?  How on earth would we compare them? These are the issues conveyed with moral scepticism.  Without an objective morality (which has yet to be observed in nature, outside of a religious notion) to commend what is morally valuable and what is not, such is open to speculation and scepticism .  Such a metric wouldn’t be a very suitable method for comparison.  For example, if we choose to see moral value in consciousness, it would alienate the comatose (whom many still value dearly) and render them without rights.  If we were to see moral value found in family, would alienate all those whom are not family.  Clearly, inconsistencies and unjustifiable differentiation are ubiquitous in assigning value this way.

If moral value cannot be agreed upon and leads to inconsistencies, then what about absolute value?

II)                  Absolute value
I am referring to “absolute value” as something separate to intrinsic notions of value; something like utilitarianism, an ethical theory that promotes actions that maximise happiness and well-being for the majority of the population.  The problem with this and the notion of consequentialism as a whole, occurs when we quantify value in terms of overall utility or benefit to society, as it too leads to many inconsistencies rendering it as a poor moral theory.

Firstly, it is absurd to ever act truly in a utilitarian fashion; every decision you make depends on the net utility or happiness generated – yet it is impossible to know the full extent of an action.  If the end goal is net utility for the majority, one could simply enslave a minority – even though the minority is very unhappy, the majority would benefit greatly from the free labour of the minority.  We reject slavery in modern society, so clearly utilitarianism isn’t an efficacious metric for assigning value.

Simply, one cannot attribute value without being able to measure – empirically -- a value reducible to something grounded in the physical world.  However, moral and value scepticism would posit that there exists no such grounding.  This means we are left with arbitrary notions of value e.g “currency”.  However, such a method is tremendously insipid; we cannot agree on how much each individual person is valued and we don’t have a system of exchangeability (i.e arbitrary currency for a service or good) for an arbitrary value such as this to have any viability or efficacy.

Con has a cumbersome burden here – he must first determine what properties have more qualitive value, how these values relate to each other and why at birth a baby possesses more absolute value than at conception.  I opine such an onus is impossible to fulfil.

One might wonder how my position is exempt of the aforementioned inconsistencies and issues…It doesn’t *objectively* avoid it, but to contend the criteria of biological humanity would entail that no biological human can have rights.  We accept as a society that we ought to have rights, therefore this criterion is axiomatic.  As such, we are grounding this as our empirical axiom, similar to the axiomatic horn of the Munchausen’s Trilemma.  This cannot be said for the other criteria as stated above, thus, we are left with the Pro position that unequivocally avoids the underlying issues of moral and value scepticism.  
A2. Legal Attribution
The context of this debate hones specifically to “legal” attribution of personhood, thus any substantial argument to propose “legal” attribution of something requires the examination of how this concurs with valid legal proceedings.  Following A1, that the Pro position is the option that provides the most consistency and certainty, I assert that attributing personhood at conception is far more compatible with general principles of jurisprudence and that attributing personhood at any other time imposes a greater level of ambiguity and uncertainty that ought to be avoided.

2.1 The Rule of Law
Without the Rule of Law, that is, “the principle whereby all members of a society are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes” [2], society as we know it crumbles – e.g some people having the right to kill humans and others not – which is why the Rule of Law is a fundamental constitutional principle in modern democracies. Examining the Rule of Law, it is comprised of another two axiomatic principles: legal consistency and the principle of legal certainty[3][4].

2.1.2 The Principle of Legal Consistency
The importance of legal consistency is described as being “deeply rooted” in law and is a crucial facet of the Rule of Law:

“The rule of law requires that laws be applied equally, without unjustifiable differentiation.” [5]

Now referring back to the baseline commonality between Con and I -- that all people are human -- if there were to exist additional criteria to the attribution of personhood, it ought to be consistent and certain for it to be considered congruent with The Rule of Law. Unfortunately,  It has been demonstrated by A1 that additional criteria *inevitably leads to inconsistencies and disagreement* i.e unjustifiable differentiation!  There is no unjustifiable differentiation if personhood were to be assumed at conception, because it would apply to every biological human.

2.1.3 The Principle of Legal Certainty
This principle is best suggested and defined as such:

“The legal system needs to permit those subject to the law to regulate their conduct with certainty and to protect those subject to the law from arbitrary use of state power. Legal certainty represents a requirement that decisions be made according to legal rules, i.e. be lawful.”[3]

From this description, it is evident that personhood at conception ties seamlessly with the notion of legal certainty, as it is set in stone that unalienable rights and what they entail are to be applied to everyone at conception.  However, this cannot be said for any other position; if personhood is attributed due to arbitrary criteria, there is a possible outcome of tyrannical “use of state power”.  For example, if we are to accept that consciousness is a criterion of personhood, all of the comatose and those unconscious would temporarily lose their personhood.  Likewise, if it were derived from net utility, one who is arbitrarily deemed as “not useful”, again, would lose their personhood.  It is a risky game; delving into how people can lose their personhood due to “legal technicalities”.  As such, the position of personhood at conception is clearly the most attractive option.

I have demonstrated that personhood at conception is the only option that evades inconsistency and disagreement. To argue against this entails additional criteria to what should constitute a person.  However, said criteria can never be indubitable, leading to contradictions, inconsistencies both metaphysically and with valid principles in law. I have shown that assigning personhood at any other time but conception unjustifiably demarcates personhood and thus should be rejected in light of the Pro position.  The resolution is therefore affirmed.
Over to Con.


I have to skip this round. I will post my arguments and rebuttals in this round and waive the last round. 
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There is a small typo in my opening case.
What is read: "Viz. “For all x, where x is a person and where x is conscious, means x is a person”"
Should be read as: Viz. “For all x, where x is a *biological human* and where x is conscious, means x is a person”
--> @Virtuoso, @semperfortis
Look forward to hearing the lines of reasoning from both of you!
--> @GuitarSlinger
>>"magically happens"
It is not going to be that more so reasons that you don't think is better than attributing Personhood at conception.
--> @Ragnar, @omar2345
Thank you!
Looking forward to this debate. In particular, I'm looking forward to learning what "magically happens" at birth or any other point in time other than conception that deems the life worthy of protection.
--> @Virtuoso, @semperfortis
With the two of you, even while being tired of this broad topic, I am now excited for this debate.
--> @Virtuoso
Don't think so. Don't think the instigator would need it either.
Your arguments would speak for themselves. If you are consistent in giving what you can then hope that your can is good enough. Guess hope can be luck but no amount of hope would make your argument more convincing.
Basically saying. Argument good. No need luck. Argument bad. You need miracle.
--> @omar2345
Thanks. I'll need it
--> @Virtuoso, @semperfortis
Good luck
**Note: Pro and I agreed to debate this in PM**
--> @Christen
Are you going to take up the debate?
--> @Christen
That is true.
Personhood is usually attributed during birth. Period.
--> @Tejretics
And my standard would be at the biological beginning of human life, that happens to be at the moment of conception. Would you be willing to debate on these terms or would you still rather it the other way?
--> @Tejretics
I understand your concern. To avoid this you could say that your standard is when sentience and pain sensation begins, rather than "exactly" 24 weeks.
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